It’s been a while since we updated this blog.  In autumn of 2011, we moved from the house, where over several years we turned a garden that when we first arrived had been overgrown with raspberries into a paradise for birds, bugs and other wildlife to come and venture.  It was a hard decision to move on, but thankfully the new owner of the house is a lady who liked the house because of the garden birds, a fellow garden bird fan.

So we moved to town. To a house with a big new challenge ahead of us.  The courtyard ‘garden’ at the back is a big slab of tarmac and the tiny bit at the front was full of conifers and weeds.  I can’t deny I miss and still do miss my old garden friends.  I miss their calls, their quirky habits and personalities and just the joy that being close to birds can bring.  Spring is now coming and we’ve just started on transforming the sterile tarmac space into a new garden which we hope will have an abundance of hoverflies and visiting birds and other delights before too long.

Although without a proper garden to feed birds, one of the main new places is the nearby park, a traditional Victorian park right opposite the station here in Newton Abbot has an abundance of birds.  The park isn’t too ‘wild’, mainly short grass with paths, even has a traditional bandstand with a few planted up areas and also plans to have more areas to encourage wildlife and it’s well used by the community.  There are a few areas along the edges with shrubs and planting, and some fine big old trees too.  Over the past few months, we’ve been putting out the odd bit of bird seed for the birds there and in some other communal spaces in the town too.

Lending a hand to birds in public spaces is a little different to feeding in the privacy of a garden.  But it also has had many benefits too, with lots of comment from others in the park, curious to see what I’m doing and enjoying what it brings.  Also it gives a wonderful point for discussion as people do love to talk about birds and nature and also ask on how to feed them in their own gardens and share their stories too.

So how do we feed birds responsibly in public spaces?  First it took some observation to see which birds go where in the parks and spaces.  The goldcrests and tits for example have a particular tree that they favour, and luckily there’s an old knarled branch that has a perfect area along it to place little bits of suet and the odd sunflower heart safely without them having to feed from the ground.  Also in an area I call  ‘dunnock corner’ there are some bushes that the dunnocks and blackbirds favour, so a handful of suet, dried mealworms and sunflower seeds go under there.  Then there’s the magnolia tree.  Currently this has a fatball feeder, and some ground food is carefully placed amongst the shrubs there too for the thrush, chaffinches, robin and more who enjoy feeding from there.  All these locations and more involve a more careful approach than when in a garden to enable the birds to feel safe to come to feed, and also away from the main routes that dogs may be running along and where people are too much, they are wild birds after all.  As we walk the dog in the park several times a day, it’s easy to monitor the feeding areas regularly and check that any old uneaten food or apple skins are  tidied away.

We even did the Big Garden Birdwatch from the park earlier in the year with a total of 18 different species being recorded.

One part of feeding birds in a more public arena is that by chatting to people and how they would like to get started with feeding birds in their own gardens, I’ve begun to make some plans on doing some talks and connecting with local community groups, and local projects and find some ways to help get them started in encouraging local diversity and wildlife which I hope to work towards during this year.

Back in May, we won the May heat of Britains Best Birdgarden, a celebration of gardens that encourage birds and wildlife organised by Birdwatching Magazine.

The ‘finals’ are currently open now, so if you wanted to vote, please do.  Obviously if we won, it’s very unlikely that in the courtyard garden in the coming months we’ll have as many birds as we did previously in our last garden to feed.  Not only that, I’ve really enjoyed sharing my love for birds with others in the community, and aim for this to continue.  If we were to win – much of the prize winnings would be distributed to local schools and community groups, projects and I’d happily help them get started with giving a helping hand to our feathered friends.

If you are interested in finding more about voting for us (or any of the other entrants, there’s some great ones to choose from that are much more deserving than us!) in Britains Best Bird Garden – you can vote here – (voting closes on 21st March and you can vote for upto 3 gardens)

Anyway – back to the birds…
Once we get going with setting up the new garden space, we’ll be back to this blog and sharing the stories here of the comings and goings of our new visitors.
And possibly a few posts in between of about our park birds too.

– Laura


We’ve had lots of youngster this summer, and a few of them are just starting to get their adult feathers coming through.

Hedgehog and blackbird, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

Nuthatch, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

Nuthatch briefly appeared at the far end of the garden a long time back during the winter.

Have heard it around, but not seen, until today. It appeared near the main feeding station just by the house, and stayed for a good long while, exploring and feeding.

Young Bullfinch, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

Every summer eagerly await the arrival of baby bullfinches. Heard one in the bushes last Friday, and the first appeared on the feeders on Saturday (a very wet day to be exploring the big outside world!).

Since then another youngster appeared yesterday, (we have 6 adults in the garden all in pairs, now along with 2 youngsters so far). Chubby and just like their parents enjoy munching endlessly on sunflower hearts.

Blackbird youngster (no.6), originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

This youngster has a great personality, quite feisty and independent already. He/she is already doing a great job weeding out my flower beds and gaps in the path in search of tasty worms.

The other five youngsters all appeared within a close batch of time, and this one a while after. (…and this week we already have the second broods starting to appear already).

young greenfinch, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

First of the young greenfinches out and about today.

Feed me!, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

Goldfinch youngster, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

First of the goldfinch youngsters out and about today.

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  • About

    In this blog we'll describe the day to day comings and goings of the birds in our Devon garden.
  • About us

    Tony is a naturalist and environmental artist. Laura is a free range creative web and print designer. We've recently moved from the village of Ipplepen to the town of Newton Abbot with our two children Ralph and Oli, our dog Henry, and numerous cats (none of whom would ever dream of eating birds).
  • Species List

    List of species, including only those birds that land in the garden:
    Blue tit
    Carrion Crow
    Chiff chaff
    Coal tit
    Collared dove
    Great spotted woodpecker
    Great tit
    House Sparrow
    Long tailed tit
    Mistle thrush
    Pied wagtail
    Song thrush
    Wood pigeon